Embrace Your Imposter
Recently I wrote a blog post which explored (albeit briefly!) Imposter Syndrome and after receiving some very lovely feedback as well a request for more information and advice on how to tackle our inner imposter – I faced mine and wrote the ‘follow-up’. I hope you enjoy and find this a helpful read.
I work with clients daily on building and maintaining their confidence; invariably Imposter Syndrome will crop up so here are few thoughts, tools and tips to help us all embrace rather than tackle our Imposter Syndrome.
That is a key point here for me – there is no point in fighting against it, especially in the current climate where our will power reserves have been reduced to pretty much zero. Fighting our inner critic and negative chatter is exhausting, draining and, frankly, doesn’t work long term.
Instead, I suggest we take care of our Imposter and placate our fears by doing the following:
1. Identify your Imposter Syndrome Type:
You set excessively high goals for yourself and when you fail to reach them you experience major self-doubt. You have to be in control of all work.
You are convinced you are a fake compared to colleagues. You work harder to measure up. You are addicted to the validation that comes from work rather than the work itself.
You have a need to be a natural genius as you judge your competence on ease and speed rather than effort. You set your internal bar impossibly high and must get things right the first time.
You feel that asking for help will reveal that you are a fake, therefore you refuse assistance in order to be able to do it all yourself.
You measure your competence on ‘what’ and ‘how much’ you know and can do, and you believe that you will never know enough. You fear that you will be exposed as a fraud, as unknowledgeable or inexperienced.
Recognise any of these traits in yourself? If so – then don’t despair as 85% of us experience Imposter Syndrome at some point in our careers (and that’s those of us who will admit it!)
Perhaps you feel you have a few imposters rattling around inside of you – again this is very common and once you have identified your type(s) you can begin to work on a few solutions:
Own, celebrate and share your success. Keep your achievements visible – I get my clients to list them all and then elaborate on what they did to ensure they gained that achievement. Go for it:
by acting before you are ready - take a risk and find your courage. Know and agree with yourself when Good Enough is Good Enough.
Give yourself validation rather than seek it from others. Prioritise your workload and set time limits on each task / project and please – stick to them. Take and give yourself constructive feedback - for every negative thought or belief find a positive fact.
See yourself as a work in progress. For a big challenge break it down into smaller steps that you can accomplish over time and celebrate each step once completed whilst recording your process to see how far you have come.
Let go of shame when you ask for assistance - see it as an added benefit to your development and as a chance to make & strengthen social connections. Seek support rather than help from others - create a team to work on a problem or project and return the favour when someone asks you. Get an ally on board whether this be a mentor, friend, colleague or coach.
Practice ‘just in time learning’ for when you actually need that specific skill. My clients find that mentoring a junior colleague not only shares their expertise but also reveals it to themselves.
2. Calm you Imposter and inner critic.
Now this is much easier said than done and it takes practice and patience, however, if you can use some of the following tricks then you will soon be able to take back control from your inner critic.
When I talk of your inner critic that is the little (or large!) voice that pipes up every time we make a mistake or fear we might. It is that pessimistic, negative voice that inhibits us and sometime we should listen to it as it is there to keep us safe “Do you really want to take the short cut home at 1am down the dark alley? Is that a wise idea? Don’t be foolish.” But sometimes that voice goes into overdrive and we need to remind it of how capable we are.
Take some time to really listen to how you talk to yourself – would you talk to your BFF in this way? To your partner? Your family? I am going out on a limb here, but I expect not – if we did, we would be very lonely indeed.
Tip no 1 is to make friends with yourself or that inner voice as you can then begin to reassure them that you are (both) ok and that you have got this.
Tip no 2 – name them. I know, I know – weird but it works as this feeds into my previous point – give your inner critic a name, a personality – the works. Mine is called Harriet and she can be a real b***h – but she is piping down a lot more especially when I start working with her (more on that later)
Tip no 3 is from Ethan Kross who suggests trying distanced self-talk where you talk to yourself in the 3rd person to give yourself some space and help your negative voice calm down as this is “one of the fastest and most straightforward ways of gaining emotional perspective: a “psychological hack” that is embedded in “the fabric of human language”.
3. Embrace your Imposter
The final stage on this journey is to really go for it. Earlier I mentioned my imposter Harriet – well she turns up when I have made a mistake and she pushes my panic button – a lot.
She decrees that I have to be a Superwoman and an Expert and that I need to achieve everything as a Soloist, so I tend to ask for her help now and then. For example, when I am facing a particular challenge on my own, I tap into my Soloist part and if I am giving a talk or workshop on wellbeing whilst working from home – I bring out my Expert.
But and there is a huge but here, I also bring out my inner mentor to help and support me when faced with Imposter Harriet. This positive voice reminds Harriet of all the things I have achieved, all the challenges I have overcome and starts to look for a positive way forward through the panic by asking a few questions:
How is my response helping me?
How is my response hindering me?
What will help me in this situation?
Who can help me with this?
What will be a positive ‘win’?
How can I now choose to respond?
Another factor is giving yourself an actual, physical hug as there is something incredibly calming and supportive in human touch. If this feels too weird – find a willing partner/pet to hug. We are pretty isolated at the moment and suffering from Touch Hunger – if you can have safe human contact then please embrace yourself and others.
Now – I am not going to say any of this is easy and believe me Harriet and I are far from the best of buddies, but she is quieter and less prevalent in my mind and life now. By identifying who she is and when she pops up, then calming and reassuring her; she and I have found a way forward – tricky and uneasy at times but a work in progress. And I know she will always be there to keep me safe.